Paper 87— The Ghost Cults — Page 964

to find some compensating adjustment, some technique for evening the odds in the one-sided struggle of man versus the cosmos.

In the early days of the cult, man's efforts to influence ghost action were confined to propitiation, attempts by bribery to buy off ill luck. As the evolution of the ghost cult progressed to the concept of good as well as bad spirits, these ceremonies turned toward attempts of a more positive nature, efforts to win good luck. Man's religion no longer was completely negativistic, nor did he stop with the effort to win good luck; he shortly began to devise schemes whereby he could compel spirit co-operation. No longer does the religionist stand defenseless before the unceasing demands of the spirit phantasms of his own devising; the savage is beginning to invent weapons wherewith he may coerce spirit action and compel spirit assistance.

Man's first efforts at defense were directed against the ghosts. As the ages passed, the living began to devise methods of resisting the dead. Many techniques were developed for frightening ghosts and driving them away, among which may be cited the following:

1. Cutting off the head and tying up the body in the grave.

2. Stoning the death house.

3. Castration or breaking the legs of the corpse.

4. Burying under stones, one origin of the modern tombstone.

5. Cremation, a later-day invention to prevent ghost trouble.

6. Casting the body into the sea.

7. Exposure of the body to be eaten by wild animals.

Ghosts were supposed to be disturbed and frightened by noise; shouting, bells, and drums drove them away from the living; and these ancient methods are still in vogue at “wakes” for the dead. Foul-smelling concoctions were utilized to banish unwelcome spirits. Hideous images of the spirits were constructed so that they would flee in haste when they beheld themselves. It was believed that dogs could detect the approach of ghosts, and that they gave warning by howling; that cocks would crow when they were near. The use of a cock as a weather vane is in perpetuation of this superstition.

Water was regarded as the best protection against ghosts. Holy water was superior to all other forms, water in which the priests had washed their feet. Both fire and water were believed to constitute impassable barriers to ghosts. The Romans carried water three times around the corpse; in the twentieth century the body is sprinkled with holy water, and hand washing at the cemetery is still a Jewish ritual. Baptism was a feature of the later water ritual; primitive bathing was a religious ceremony. Only in recent times has bathing become a sanitary practice.

But man did not stop with ghost coercion; through religious ritual and other practices he was soon attempting to compel spirit action. Exorcism was the employment of one spirit to control or banish another, and these tactics were also utilized for frightening ghosts and spirits. The dual-spiritism concept of good and bad forces offered man ample opportunity to attempt to pit one agency against another, for, if a powerful man could vanquish a weaker one, then certainly a strong spirit could dominate an inferior ghost. Primitive cursing was a coercive practice designed to overawe minor spirits. Later this custom expanded into the pronouncing of curses upon enemies.